If you operate a property management company and/or invest in real estate like I do, you need to be able to work with contractors and subcontractors to get the best deals possible. However, more than just finding the cheapest price, you need to be able to trust the people doing the work for you. This week, I had a battle that I wanted to share with you, hopefully to give you some help when shopping and working with contractors and subcontractors.

First, you want to build relationships with people, not with businesses. I am a firm believer in the good ole boy system, and let me tell you it works. But the problem I had this week was, my typical plumber who I know and have done business with in the past, was not able to complete the work on a job I had. So rather than going to the phone book, I took his recommendation of another plumber in the area. Normally, this is a great idea; however, I made a mistake.

My mistake was that I assumed that the terms, conditions, etc would be the same as with my typical plumber. They were not. I was assuming that I would be billed for the service by mail, and then would have 10-30 days to pay, as this is the typical deal with my usual plumber. But this plumber wanted to be paid immediately. The problem was, neither of us talked about this ahead of time. We found out our difference after the job had been completed. This made the situation an ugly one.

The problem we had is this - he was afraid of being stiffed, and I was afraid of his work failing shortly after completion. And, in fact there was a problem that surfaced after he completed the work. But he was not willing to go back to the property and check out the problem. He simply wanted to get his money and move on. The job was completed on Wednesday, and by Friday he had called me some 6-8 times looking for his money. Terrible, terrible customer service.

I was able to call my usual plumber in to check out the problem, and he identified that it was not the fault of the other plumber. So in the end, I wrote the check and paid the other plumber, just to get the monkey off my back. The contract price was only $400, so I guess it was a lesson learned for me.

Bottom line, whoever you deal with, make sure that you have the scope work, price, terms and conditions all worked out before you agree and they start the work. It just makes sure that everybody involved is on the same page and that nothing sneaks up on anyone else. In this case, if either party had made the other aware of his expectations through job, it would have gone much smoother.

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